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Why Doesn't Dieting Work?

We've all heard that the key to weight loss is to eat less. But 95% of people who lose weight through dieting alone will regain it within 2 years (Griffin) sadly sometimes they regain more than they lost in the first place. No one likes to diet; we might even get a little mean and short tempered when we don't eat what we are used to eating. There is a reason "You aren't you, when you're hungry." (O’Rielly) is the number one most successful candy marketing campaign tag line. No one wants to go through the pain and suffering of a diet just to end up on the roller coaster of weight loss and gain over and over again, but 95% of dieters do just that. How do you avoid the trap of weight loss and regain?

There are some basic biology 101 facts that get missed in all of the dieting regimes, plans, books, programs, and magic supplements. Our bodies burn more calories doing our daily activities than most of us could ever burn during a workout. Using up 1600 calories through daily living is called Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR. This means: getting up, going to work, sitting at a desk-all day, and spending your evenings at home watching TV will burn around 1600 calories each day depending on your physique (Griffin). You would have to run for about three hours to burn the same amount of calories through exercise. To estimate your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) multiple your weight in pounds by 10. This will give an estimate of your daily RMR (Griffin). Your RMR does slow as you age, but chances are if you are gaining weight it is because you are consuming more calories than you use.

The measurement of the calories used in daily living is RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) and it is dependent on your physique. Your physique is a combination of gender, height, and weight and is the biggest factor in your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate). This is also strongly influenced by genetics, body type, and life style. A tall muscular athletic woman may burn more calories than a short small overweight man during the course of her average day. Resting Metabolic Rate is the key, the essential piece to the puzzle of weight loss success or failure. If you can increase your RMR, you can get off the roller coaster of weigh loss and subsequent regain. The most important thing you can do to increase your RMR is exercise.

Dieting does something interesting and unexpected to your RMR. Dieting slows down your RMR. This is why people gain weight so easily when they break or end their diets. Dieting makes your body use fewer calories in your day-to-day life. So the average person who used to burn up 1600 calories to get through their day, while on a diet their body will protect themselves and will burn up fewer calories a day (Griffin). What this means to you is that you have to eat less and less as your body’s metabolism slows down because of your reduced caloric consumption in order to lose weight through dieting alone.

To lose weight one has to create a calorie deficit. You have to consume fewer calories than your body will need in a day so you lose weight by consuming energy stored in your body's tissues. One pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories. A healthy person can safely and sustainably lose up to 2 lbs. or 7,000 calories a week (Griffin). If you were doing this through diet alone you would need to consume 500-1000 calories less a day. Being mindful that your RMR may have slowed down with your diet. The good news is that there is a much more effective way to lose weight than by diet alone: exercise.

Exercise increases your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate). Different forms of exercise will increase an individual's RMR so that they burn more calories through daily living and therefore find it easier to lose weight. There is a thermic effect of exercise, which means an individual's RMR is higher after exercise. So you burn additional calories on the days you exercise, not just while you exercise, but also while you are going about your daily life after exercising.

What kind of exercise is best to lose weight? Burning calories is not a metaphor. The best kind of exercise for increasing your RMR is the type of exercise an individual can sustain at a heightened intensity of 70% vo2max. This is typically cardiovascular or aerobic exercise and must suit an individual needs. An individual must be able to reach 70% of their VO2max safety and sustainable in order to exercise in their target heart rate. A simple example is an individual with arthritic knees will be able to swim longer and at a higher intensity than they can run. 70% vo2max means your body is functioning at 70% of its cardiovascular capability. There are different ways a personal trainer can help you test for your VO2max but it is easier in the beginning of an exercise regime to aim to workout at an intensity that you are sweating but still able to speak in short sentences. If you are able to speak comfortably in complete sentences and aren’t sweating chances are you aren’t working out at a heightened intensity. Remember you have to burn your calories by getting your body to work at a higher gear.

Endurance training might be a more suitable form of exercise for some individuals. It will still accomplish your goal of creating a calorie deficit. It will just take longer to achieve your goals, as endurance exercises takes longer to perform.

Resistance training also plays an important role in weight loss. Every additional pound of muscle results in an increase of 35 cal/day in RMR (Griffin). Resistance training plays a support role in increasing RMR and should be performed 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes (Griffin).

How do you bring all of this information together into a daily and weekly routine? First you need to meet the minimum recommended weekly physical activity of 250 minutes. Then you should decide the intensity and speed you can sustain a weight loss plan through creating a sustainable caloric deficit plan through diet and exercise. If you want to lose a pound a week through diet and exercise, you could exercise for 30 min 5 times a week creating a deficit of 1750 cal. then you would need to reduce calorie consumption by 250 cal. per day. This exercise regime would result in the caloric deficit of 3,500 calories a week, or you would lose a pound a week. (Griffin)

 

 

By: Karen Moore-McIntyre

 

References

Griffin, J.C. Client-Centered Exercise Prescription (3rd ed.) Human Kinetics 2015, Toronto

O’Rielly, T., Best Tag Lines, Under The Influence Jan 2015 CBC Podcast, Canada

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